Tag Archives: Journalism



Dear reader,

Perhaps I’ve been a bit remiss lately, since I blogged about a walk into Winchester, or that fun visit to Jane Austen’s house, where the care taker had read my novels. Remiss in not writing more about my wildest adventures living in ravishing Hampshire, while trying to crowd fund a story too at Indiegogo, Dragon In The Post. Which have included some highly colourful and vaguely drunken beer festivals, although I of course abstain, a caste of sometimes enchanting or very eccentric characters, the most astonishing electric storm I’ve seen in years, with lighting rippling through the leaden Hampshire skies like veins in a Norse God’s angry biceps, or a brief taste of the ancient Winchester Hat festival, haunt of largely disenfranchised artists and musicians.

Picaresque joys that henceforth will be retitled “My Hampshire Chronicles. Not least because of a little spat today with the esteemed members of the Fourth Estate, journalists on that very local paper, that reached up to the editor himself! The reason for my own chagrin, or sheer disappointment and frustration, was that after having been interviewed and photographed for The Hampshire Chronicle near three weeks back and hoping a piece might give us a shot at some real hearing, a hope shared by backers too, I was ticked off for my impertinence in even ringing to enquire, and on a hectic news day too, if the article might come out tomorrow. Only to be told again that it wasn’t and that ‘I was doing my cause no good’. What cause, I cry, if fairly mainstream media does not even listen, which is the very paradox or point of the project too? A not-so-impertinent call then, made with some reason, I still insist, since a piece had been written, time spent, hopes raised and if I hadn’t extended a deadline recently the whole thing would have come to an end this Saturday anyway, un-regarded, at least in literate Hampshire circles. I had also appealed just rather honestly, I hope, to fellow wordsmith’s obvious love of reading and writing, yet underlining that, like journalists, crowd funding authors have deadlines as well. Perhaps they did not know, though I certainly told them. Then I transgressed most mightily though when I followed my putting-of-the-phone-down with cross emailed thoughts on the grave matter, which produced a very curt editorial response from the man at the top – Leave our journalists alone!

Evidently the real transgression though was to suggest, from clearly worthless common report, I add, that this attempt to break back through into wider publishing, or at least say something frank about the difficulties for modern writers of platforms and publishing, agents and things, these mass-phenomena days, or to share news of a skilful novel itself, might actually be as interesting to real readers on some human level as other articles in the paper that were perhaps a little ‘humdrum‘. A swift dismissal at my rabid persecution of his poor journalists, nonetheless, effectively telling me to take a hike worthy of walking The South Downs Way, and then “Furthermore, I take issue with your claim of the ‘humdrum fair’ published in the Hampshire Chronicle. It’s puzzling, then, that the paper has twice been short listed for weekly newspaper of the year in the past eight months!” He should read Dr Johnson’s letter to the Earl of Chesterfield! I’m afraid I have not done due journalistic diligence, being only an ordinary member of the reading and writing public, in inquiring if the worthy organ had actually won – once or twice.

Fair play though, forget the weary exposure of this long-fighting author, wrestling with something so difficult and sometimes demoralising too as trying to speak through Social Media, indeed something often so highly anti-social as Facebook, in my opinion. Which in such hugely wealthy country circles as Hampshire seems immediately associated with a kind of begging too, as my local publican remarked, or only worthy of pennies tossed into a hat, fair or foul, down Winchester High Street. (Not a monstrous £25 for a real, signed, First edition, or other ‘perk’ levels too.) My efforts to explain that writing a novel is not the same as busking, romantic as it is, largely fell on puzzled, cloth cap ears, down the pub. But then remember the enormous strain on belaboured working journalists too, as the chimes of ancient Winchester Cathedral ring out their nightly Angelus, hurrying us all towards every future’s inevitable deadline. Faintly heard echoes down there in the hectic Hampshire news rooms, thrumming to the constant tap of ticker-tape and coping with the daily hurricane of emotional threats and demands in trying to solve the Gaza Crisis, exposing nests of nasty foreign terrorists, challenging the appalling Capital gaps at Davos, which crowd funding might one day help to remodel a little, or dealing with the ever running issue of the local art bypass. What place indeed for a little fairy tale about a Dragon delivered to a boy in an eggbox, to take you to a better world?!

I think all I have ever asked is a fair crack of the whip though and did from The Chronicle too, but never annoy a journalist or editor, they’re especially unforgiving, or un-impartial, nor try to do something a little differently. Then I’ve just changed my mind on everything, even aspiring Dragon Warriors – be a lover not a fighter! My final, endlessly witty reposte to this tearing off a Gaza strip though was that “perhaps you would like to publish a letter of complaint to the editor!” Complaining no more works though than gloom, or insisting anyone should ever do anything in life, so smile, laugh, take what media pennies you may with a hum of musical gratitude and march on. As I must start training again for that 100 miles walk to an August finishing line (I hope no dead line), and these pages will just return more humbly, Sir, to enjoying writing itself. If even writing about being largely ignored, or unread, in sunny Hampshire! Ah me. No wonder several promises made have not been stuck to, like posters promised up in Waterstones, or certain meetings unreliably unmet. Then clearly“In Hertford, Hereford or Hampshire Crowd Funding is hardly ever heard of, or happens.” Apologies though to disappointed backers for letting the good song down.

David Clement-Davies – August 2014

You can still help find a constituency and crowd fund a story, that you can read part of on Wattpad and hear on audio too, perhaps support an organic little publisher as well, Phoenix Ark Press, by clicking here AND BACKING DRAGON IN THE POST. The project closes on August 27th. Many thanks. The photo is a still from the animation up at Indiegogo showing an as yet unopened egg box!

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Every world is changing, even as you step into it. But my own experience of how the world changed in travel writing was growing up reading the likes of Eric Newby, he of A Short Walk in The Hindu Kush. Like Patrick Lee Fermour, Newby was one of the gentlemen greats, who came to travel edit the pages of the Observer, and when I went out to The North West Frontier, lots of people took his very funny Short Walk with them, including me. How travel writing has changed since then, and how our knowledge of Pakistan and Afghanistan too. No longer an adventure, more a horror story. But then all writing is the mediation of supposed universal experience, through a particular consciousness, as language and its precise use mediates too. It was why it was a little funny, talking of “gentlemen greats” to find Country Life editing an article about a polo match on the Shandur Pass, from my line about a local man peeing in a lake, to his “relieving himself”. Up in the Hindu Kush folk pee, they do not relieve themselves, if “this is true, throughout the shires, that horses sweat but Man perspires!”

I was always freelance, trying to write in papers like The Telegraph, The Times or Guardian, specialising in stories related to wildlife or environmentalism. It never brought in any money, but it did give the chance to do some extraordinary trips, and to write too. So I heard little stories like an editor bumping into Jan Morris, James in a dress by then, and telling her travel writers had charmed lives. Hmmm. Jan Morris is certainly a deeply charmed writer. The problem was the days when you could sound off as real traveller and writer were also morphing into the days when you had to write about the quality of hotel shower heads, and so sell the travel industry itself, to support a paper’s advertising revenues.

The democratically thin end of that enormous wedge is the Internet and the likes of Trip Advisor, where self-appointed experts apparently cause horror stories complaining about the number of tea bags, or the position of the kettle in Bed and Breakfasts. In trying to set up potentially interesting pieces though, with prominent companies, that could be a little corrosive of your independence too. But there was also the fact that no journalists took travel writing very seriously, as they should have done, and often saw it as a chance for freebies, or a holiday from the real fight. Art though, and finding a real voice in writing, and travelling the world, is the fight too.

I fell very foul of The Telegraph when I was attacked by an editor, and many editors on the inside love their bits of power, for daring to be rude about Devon and Cornwall, although I wasn’t really. That was the impression that came out from a piece about history there, or England’s story, notably falling off our own maritime identity into American dreams and longings at “Westwood Ho”, that had been severely slashed in print, causing several “points of view” complaints from the public. Hey ho. Travel writing at its best is writing at its best, but rather than glossy food fests, posh hotels or book stunts like crossing the Atlantic in a bathtub, it should be brought back in print, if only as a leader to other articles more obviously engaged in selling things. One place that dedicates itself to travel writing as writing, almost purely in fine reprints, is Eland Books.



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